Although eating disorders are common, they are unfortunately left out of conversations relating to mental health or mental health awareness. Eating disorders have physical symptoms, but most of them are manifestations of mental issues.
Eating is a major part of our lives and our relationship with food is influenced by various factors, like how we are raised, food availability, biological changes and even the media’s presentation. Essentially, one key element that affects our relationship with food is our mental health and this is why an ample amount of eating disorders are diagnosed as mental illnesses.
In its totality, eating disorders are illnesses characterised by disturbances in behaviours, thoughts and attitudes to food, eating, and body weight or shape. It is a persistent and severe issue that alters an individual’s emotional, physical, social and mental health. Thus, they should not be underestimated as a lifestyle choice or poor dieting.
Here are 5 eating disorders and their symptoms:
1. Anorexia Nervosa
With the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, anorexia nervosa is considered the deadliest of all. It is an obsessive fear of gaining weight that encourages an extremely low calorie diet. Anorexia involves unhealthy and persistent restrictions, like eating only one type of food, and might be complemented by excessive exercising or purging methods. Someone suffering from anorexia is likely to have a negative body image and derive happiness from losing weight.
Contrary to popular ideas, young adolescent women are not the only ones that can suffer from this eating disorder. Women suffer more from anorexia but it can be developed by both men and women at any age.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- High sensitivity to comments/criticisms about body shape, weight and appearance
- Following rigid eating rules and rituals (e.g. only eating a particular colour of food)
- Distorted body image
- Deceptive or secretive behaviour around food
- Making excuses not to eat
- Having unhealthy ideas of what “bad” and “good” food is
- Heightened anxiety around meal times
- Use of diet pills or laxatives
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Written by Oshoriame Egbakhumeh